Collateral damage

This too is a sleight of hand. It creates a false dichotomy that we either accept the collateral damage or allow illegal drugs to continue destroying the country. Lives must be sacrificed, as it were, on the altar of national cleansing.

In this sense, its defenders are celebrating too the imagined successes of the war on drugs.  

Not just a euphemism

My view is that calling the death of innocent lives as collateral damage is not just an exercise in euphemistic speech writing. It is fundamentally a morally deprived take on murder.

It not only softens the moral impact of the war on drugs that already enjoys massive public support in the first place. It rids the war of any moral obligation to set things right the right way. The euphemism parallels the systematic attack on human rights activists as people who, in Duterte's view, are getting in his way.

Has he not also called for the shooting of these activists? I dread the day when the killing of human rights activists becomes collateral damage too.   

To frame the death of so many young people in terms of collateral damage cannot be a matter of statistical recording that pits losses against gains. This, unfortunately, has become the moral calculus of this administration.

In the final analysis, the collateral damage is not just the loss of one innocent life.

For every life lost is a constellation of dreams forever gone. And a lifetime, no matter how long, can never be enough to count those dreams.

Kian dreamt of becoming a policeman.

But alas, Duterte's devotees keep applauding. They even keep laughing. –


Jayeel Serrano Cornelio, PhD ( is the Director of the Development Studies Program, Ateneo de Manila University.  The National Academy of Science and Technology has named him one of the 2017 Outstanding Young Scientists of the country.  Twitter: @jayeel_cornelio 

Jayeel Cornelio

Jayeel Cornelio, PhD is Associate Professor and the Director of the Development Studies Program at the Ateneo de Manila University. A sociologist of religion, he is a recipient of the 2017 Outstanding Young Scientist Award from the National Academy of Science and Technology. He i...